Please tell me how the written “e” is pronounced. I've checked various online resources and am still not sure about it. I found the following rules:

“e” is pronounced as:

ii – at begin of words, after vowels, after ь, after ъ

i – between consonant and vowel

ie – at the end of a word, after the consonant

Thank you.

2 Answers 2


For a proper pronounce you should know three things:

  • iotizing
  • softening
  • reduction

Iotizing means that if Е stands at the beginning of the word, or after another vowel, or after the hard or soft sign (Ь or Ъ), then it's iotized, i.e. it produces two sounds: Й+Э (as in YEllow)

Softening(Palatalization) means that if Е stands after a consonant, then the consonant becomes a "soft variant"("palatalized"). (Note that Е gives only one sound "Э", as in Elbow, in this case). But if the consonant has no "soft variant"[Ш, Ж, Ц], then it doesn't change, of course.

That is Ель -> ЙЭл'; ЛЕc -> Л'Эс; МЕль ->М'Эл'; ЖЕчь -> ЖЭч'; ШЕст -> ШЭст etc.

And there's yet another feature — Reduction.

Reduction may be applied to an unstressed vowel (after proper iotizing and softening!) to pronounce it differently, so this is a matter of dialect. Unstressed Russian "Е" usually gives "И" (this is the most standard way, called "Иканье"). Although saying just "Э" is OK, too.

So "Е(катеринбург)" usually yields "ЙИ(кат'ир'инбурк)". But a stressed vowel never changes, e.g.: подъЕзд -> падЙЭст.

  • 5
    That's very interesting that you transcribed "Екатеринбург" with a "x" at the end. Isn't final "г" devoiced into [k]? Друг [druk]? Are you from Екатеринбург? Is it the way its inhabitants pronounce the name of that city? Or is it interference of your local dialect? I'm Ukrainian, I'd pronounce it also with a [x] when I don't think about correct Russian pronunciation, but Wiktionary says it should be [k] at the end.
    – Yellow Sky
    Oct 25, 2015 at 14:15
  • @YellowSky Russian, but quite far from Ural. Lower Volga, actually. Once I was in E-burg, but not really sure how they say it: either "-к" or maybe even "-г". Though there's old and rare form "Катеринбурх". After all, things like that are unstable. I can spell both "-к" and "-х". Whether it's a kind of "Ukrainian-influenced" or "Southern Russian" dialect, I can't say.
    – Matt
    Oct 25, 2015 at 14:57
  • OK, I see. It's unlikely that it's "Ukrainian-influenced", if you're from the Lower Volga, it's more likely that that's Southern Russian.
    – Yellow Sky
    Oct 25, 2015 at 15:02
  • Upvote for the nice explanation. And I was also surprised with "х" in "Екатеринбург", it's really unusual for my ear, but I heard such pronunciation from people with Southern Russian dialect and from Ukrainian speaking people. I am from Novosibirsk, btw, here we reduce "г" to "к".
    – Roman
    Oct 25, 2015 at 19:01
  • 1
    @Roman, "Х" or "к": it is a hard one to pin-point, isn't it? (pun intended) Oct 25, 2015 at 22:29

It depends on the position of the letter in the word:

In word-initial position or after a vowel (in this regard the "soft signь and "had sign" ъ function as vowels, which is their historic origin), it's usually pronounced ye as in yes, for example. In fact, ye is the alphabetical name of this letter.

E can also represent an alternate spelling of ё (yo): the dieresis is usually omitted, except in texts for children or foreigners. In such cases, word-initial (or after a vowel) е is pronounced like yo in New York. There's no way to predict this difference other than knowing the actual pronunciation of the word, e.g., елка is a spelling variant of ёлка(Christmas tree), thus it's pronounced 'yolkah.

Note that the letter ё, as well as its alternate spelling е, is always stressed, so елка in the sense of Christmas tree is pronounced as 'yolkah with the stress on the first syllable. In some cases, the dieresis is omitted from a ë in the middle of a word, and you just have to guess the actual pronunciation. For instance, четырехколесный is a alternate spelling of четырёхколёсный(four-wheeled), so the first yo has secondary stress, and the second yo has primary stress since the second part is the root and thus this 'yo' is necessarily stressed, while the first part is only a prefix (not in the formal grammatical sense, but only an auxiliary modifier of the main root, so only it can only take a secondary stress, while the main root obeys the general rule that yo is always stressed.)

After a consonant, e is pronounced differently: it usually modifies the consonant, making it "soft", i.e. palatalized. As far as I know, there are no palatalized consonants in English, so this effect is difficult to explain. Compare man vs.men, then место (place) is pronounced asmiesto, or, m'esto with the [m] as in merry. Note how this is consistent with the name of the letter, ie, so it virtually adds a "soft sign", similar to i to the consonant; I'd write the pronunciation ofmerry in Russian as мери.

After a palatalized consonant, the sound itself is pronounced with a slight trace of a smile, as in men as opposed to man, or as in "base", in which, to my ear, "b" is palatalized, kind of "bieys", which I would write asбейс. In order to avoid this palatalizing effect, the letter э is used instead, which is pronounced identically, but does not palatalize the preceding consonant, i.e. it doesn't insert an i before it.

After a "hard" (non-palatalized) consonant, е is pronounced identically to э, as in send/"pen", (not as in "sand", "pan"), sorry if I get the pronunciation of these words wrong, English is not my language — Russian is.

  • Here I tried to cover two of the "three things" mentioed by @Matt in the other answer: , "iotizing" and "softening", which I called here "palatalization". Feb 21, 2023 at 5:31

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